Thursday, 13 December 2007

Queensland in sight

The title of today's post says it all really! After a marathon effort today, Mark has reached Boggabilla which is just a few kms short of the Queensland border. He has cycled 215kms from last night's overnight stop at Narrabri. The photo left was taken in a farmer's field very close to Narrabri and shows a crop which is particularly associated with this part of NSW. If I am honest, I don't think that I knew that cotton was grown in here and I certainly didn't know that Narrabri was the cotton capital of Australia nor that cotton contributes $1.5 billion to the economy.

The map above shows the distribution of cotton country in eastern Australia and you can clearly see that it is associated with rivers. Since cotton requires between 600mm and 1200mm of rainfall and since much of this part of NSW receives less than 600mm, irrigation water from the rivers is essential to production. The Australian Cotton Centre, where you can be "be entertained and educated about the worlds most popular fibre" is located at Narrabri and you can link to its web pages by clicking on the logo to the right.

Both Narrabri and Moree, which was the next settlement of any size along Mark's route today, are located on tributaries of the Darling river which, in turn, is the major tributary of the Murray. Moree is in the middle of a very flat and pretty vast plain. This is borne out by Mark's diary today "after Moree there is a stretch of 118km of exposed prairie with no overnight rest stops ". Certainly there is no cover for these 'emus in a stubble field near Moree' which I gleaned from the embedded photos in Google Earth and the Newell Highway (below) between Narrabri and Moree is straight as a die and flat as a pancake!
Moree is located on the Mehi river seen here on the left and, like Narrabri, is at the centre of a cotton growing area based on supplies of irrigation water from the river. The climate of NSW becomes slightly more 'tropical' as you head north with a summer maximum of rainfall. Indeed, Mark has been noting heavy rain showers in the last couple of days. Nonetheless, in this area which lies in the rainshadow of the Dividing Range, the total annual rainfall is still only around 600mm. Brisbane, which is only a few hundred kms but on the 'right' side of the mountains with regards to the prevailing winds, has twice that amount.

If you read the Wikipedia entry for Moree you can learn something of its significance in the fight to bring racial segregation in rural Australia to the attention of the media. I found it quite sobering to read that well within my lifetime Aborigine children were being refused entry to the public swimming pool in Moree. On a more 'trivial' note, the youngest child of Charles Dickens, after emigrating to Australia, lived in Moree. He became a local MP and was eventually buried there.

And so, after a long day's cycling Mark reached Boggabilla, within striking distance of the Queensland border at Goondiwindi... Somewhere in Boggabilla is this sign which I guess Mark was delighted to see!

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